Sometimes when I am feeling sorry for myself or just feeling down I have to sit and think about all of the things or people that I am thankful for.

This week there are some very specific people that make me feel encouraged and “not alone.”

I have mentioned our “buddy family” from school before but she has turned into a real friend over the last couple of months. Her name is Mariana and she has really been a lifesaver. She has called drs offices for me to make appointments. She has helped me try and figure out the dollars vs. colones stuff and she is always answering my stupid questions without making me feel stupid.

Another new friend I am thankful for is Diana. Her husband works with Nathan and she has gone way out of her way to make me feel at home. She has also called drs offices for me and is really trying to help me understand some of the cultural things that I need to know. She is from here but also has lived in the states. I look forward to many more lunch dates…..for the conversations and for the yummy places she shows me!!

The next person is a sweet little girl in Sloane’s class. Her name is Regina. Sloane was having a very hard time and Regina is the answer to prayer. She was also having a hard time and sloane has helped her too. She came over yesterday for a play date and she is just the sweetest little girl.

I am also very thankful for Sloane’s teacher. Her name is Ysabel (Ms. Ortiz). She is most recently from Florida and has been so kind to Sloane. She has already learned Sloane’s strengths and pushes her to do her best. I am trying not to let it hurt my feelings that people think she looks more like Sloane’s mom than me…..😉

She even went to church with us last Sunday! She just jumped right in and even helped in Blake’s Bible class!

And last but certainly not least…….Julie. I met Julie at family day at school. My Spanish teacher had told me that there was a girl that I needed to meet. She said that she was interested in taking lessons and maybe we could do our classes together. She and her husband and 2 babies had just moved here from Texas and he is the high school principal. I knew from the moment I met her that we were going to be friends. It was an easy connection and I am so grateful. We started lessons together that next week and now I have someone to complain to:) We are truly going through this experience together. I really do enjoy our time together.

I feel God with me in this experience. We definitely have challenges but it could be so much worse. There have been times where I have felt isolated and most of that time I have done that to myself because I honestly think it is easier not to rely on others. But now I am feeling part of a community. It is ok to ask for help and to open yourself up to others.

First Grandparent Visit

Just a little backstory here…..So when I got married and moved away from home my mom used to tell people that I had moved to another country (I lived in Little Rock and Memphis, about 2 hours away from my parents in Northeast Arkansas.) At one point I had to tell my mom she needed to be careful because some people she knew ACTUALLY did have children that moved to other countries to become missionaries.

I honestly would have never thought that I would be one of those people to move out of the country so I just kept teasing my mom about living soooo far away in Memphis…until one day I had to tell her I WAS ACTUALLY MOVING OUT OF THE COUNTRY!😫

This was the first time they have flown out of the country and I am really proud of them. They got their passports and were on their way!

They left Nashville at 6am and were here by noon!! Here are some pictures of them on their way.

They arrived in Costa Rica with no problems and even had all their luggage!🙌🏽

Here we all are at the airport. I really couldn’t believe that they were here!

We got home and had to open up all of our goodies from the States. I had ordered some things from Amazon and mom and dad had gotten us all “prizes.” It was like Christmas!

The rest of Saturday we just hung out and talked. Sunday morning we were excited to show my parents where we go to church and introduce them to our new church family. They felt very at home there and were impressed how kind everyone was.

That evening we had a kids cooking competition. Blake Leigh against Sloane, and Benson, Nathan and my mom were the judges. They had 35 min and not very many ingredients to work with. Benson was also the photographer, time keeper and show host. Benson wasn’t able to keep Blake Leigh’s dessert down so sloane was the clear winner. all 3 judges actually really enjoyed Sloane’s chocolate eclair with whipped cream so much that they were fighting over the rest!

I also need to show this picture…..we were behind this vehicle on the way to church that morning……that van is FULL of people! Only in Costa Rica! Pura Vida!

Monday morning, after talking the kids to school, I took mom and dad to La Paz waterfall gardens and animal sanctuary. We did some hiking and took in lots of beautiful scenery. We were all pretty worn out after that! You can see my dad in the picture above. I’m not sure how many times he said “are we almost there?”

That evening Nathan and I got to go on our first date since we moved here. We went to a fancy dinner place and he surprised me with a massage. We were so thankful that my parents were here to watch the kids. On Tuesday mom went to Zumba class with me and then we got to enjoy the pool. Our friends, Diego and Katherine from church came over and mom fixed them lunch.

Wednesday we went on a field trip with some other new moms from school to the central market in San José. It was a neat experience and it was nice to just hop on a bus and not have to drive. We had a “typical” Costa Rica breakfast and got to see some neat sights from downtown. Thursday I took my parents to the beach that is closest to us (about and hour and 15 min.) We, of course, had to stop at the crocodile bridge and see some crocs!! We ate at a great restaurant on the way home and even tried some new foods. We got back later that afternoon just in time to miss the rain and see he kids after school.

Friday we just kind of chilled and rested up from a busy week.

Some of the highlights of the week for me were Grammy and Sloane sewing together, mom and I cooking together, and of course Peepaw fixing bikes that were in desperate need of fixing, playing cards and just getting to show them around this beautiful country that we get to live in. Here are some pictures of our “see you in December.” (Not goodbye)I am so proud of them for doing this and I hope it gives them the confidence to do it again! We can’t wait to see them again in December! Until then, we are being careful mom, I promise!!❤️

Shaking the dust off of our brains and getting back to school…..

Well, it has been a long time since these kids have been in school and had some structure.  We ended school in the States at the end of May and we are just starting back.  Our school here goes through June so we are feeling a little behind and rusty.  I have been having them read some but I don’t think watching Full House and playing fortnite counts as educational.

As I have mentioned the kids were very apprehensive about moving here.  There were a lot of things that they were nervous about and luckily school wasnt one of them. When we visited the school on our Spring Break visit the kids felt comfortable from the second we walked in.  I am so grateful!  I don’t know how many times as we were riding our bikes over the last couple of months that Benson said he couldn’t wait to start school.

Our school is called Country Day School, and it is an Early Childhood through highschool program. It is a very cool campus with open windows and doors and no air conditioning.  The kids class sizes range from 13-18.  I like that too.  It is an International school so there are people from all over the world there.  The students are instructed in English but have an hour of Español every day. We attended the orientation day for new families last friday and the kids had a great day. Now they are more excited than ever to start school on Monday. The buildings are color coded and they call them “houses” like in Harry Potter, which Benson loves. This will be the only year that they are all in the same “house.”

We only live a little over half a mile from the school so we are able to ride our bikes to and from school. I still ride with them until we get a little more comfortable.

We are very pleased with the kids teachers. Andi’s (Sloane’s) teacher just moved here from Florida a couple of weeks ago so they have a lot in common. The last picture is a view from Benson’s classroom. This is the road to our house and I think it gives him some comfort.  They wear uniforms, which is new for us, but great.  They have a different uniform for P.E. days which is nice. Benson has chosen to be in the band over choir so we will see how that goes.

The first day of school the bike ride was very uneventful.  Everyone went in to school happy and ready to start the day.  Day number 2 wasnt so great.  Sloane got ahead of me and panicked and went in the wrong gate and as she was turning around the arm of the security gate hit her on the helmet. She managed to get out of that area just to fall facedown right in front of the school.  Our security guards were so sweet to run to help her and Benson and Blake were really sweet too.  Benson really stepped up and took care of her bike and Blake offered to walk her to the nurse.

It was pretty horrible as a parent to make her go into school.  She did not want to go and I had to make her go.  I let Benson and Blake take her in and she was very brave.  The nurse took really good care of her and she ended up having a great day.  She had another wreck on day 3 so now I carry her backpack and that has made a big difference.

When I pick them up they have big smiles and we talk about their days the whole way home. Next week we start our after school activities but for now I am enjoying the easy afternoons with no ho homework and no activities!!!

I will do something hard this year….

Look at the bottom line of this picture. In very small print there is a very important sentence.

Little did Benson know when he chose this quote and challenge to “do something hard” at the beginning of school last year, that he would be packing up and moving to Costa Rica.

Benson’s great teachers, Katie Wilson and Robin Bond, had the kids in his class choose a quote and a challenge for themselves for the year. I remember this quote well because I was one of the volunteers who helped put these cards together. I remember thinking “ok, Benson, what hard thing are you going to do this year? Run another 10k? Be nice you your sisters?” I took a picture of this little card but didn’t think much about it until much later when I saw it hanging in the hallway at school after we had told the kids that we were moving.

Benson definitely took it the hardest when we told them we were moving and he still struggles at times but he has been a rock! This move has been hard for all of us. But he has stepped up and he is really helping to get me through it. He has been a helper in the kitchen, he has been the first one up when I ask for help and he is really looking forward to starting school here and making some friends.

Poor guy had no idea when he chose “I will do something hard” what all that might mean. My hope is that this experience will open all of their eyes to different cultures and having to work hard to make things happen. We are making connections all the time that make me realize that this can only be good for all of us.

This week has been especially tough. I needed to make Doctor appointments for the kids before school starts on the 20th. I am so glad to have a few connections and I trust their recommendations but it is hard to find Doctors that speak English AND have office staff that you can communicate with to make the appointments. Also, insurance is different here and you have to pay everything up front and then hopefully get reimbursed later.

We found a pediatrician to help us this week and Benson has his first orthodontist appointment next week. I took Blake to get some swimmers ear stuff checked out and SURPRISE… the flu season is different here so hey all had to get a flu shot, which was in an entire different building. And did I mention that Nathan was in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile this week?

I am learning that I can figure things out, and I am very thankful for my new friends here in Costa Rica that are giving me referrals. I am also very thankful for google translate!! It has been a lifesaver. We are having Spanish lessons twice a week but it is coming very s-l-o-w-l-y!

This is our Spanish teacher, Anna. She is great! Luckily, she was at the house this week when we had to have some work done. The crew spoke no English so she translated for me. People here have really been very nice and helpful. I have also started yoga and Zumba class in the neighborhood so I have been feeling more like myself. This is my Zumba trainer…. he is very intense. (I still miss you though, Rhynia!) I do not mean to complain. The more I write I am actually more and more grateful for the people that have been placed in our path along this journey and for the flashes of maturity and grace I am seeing in my children. I am needing more and more of the grace lately as I am navigating this new life. I am also “doing something hard” this year but I am very fortunate to have such a wonderful support team. I know some that don’t have that. I pray to be more appreciative of the blessings that God has given me.

Saying Goodbye, For Now

This was the day I had been dreading since they told me that they were coming.  We had to take them to the airport Saturday morning.  Of course it could not be an uneventful morning!!  Eric realized that he didn’t have his passport about 30 minutes before we needed to leave.  Luckily, he could trace it back to when he was driving Nathans 4-runner down the hill with no breaks…..keep in mind that Nathan had been trying to get a hold of the mechanic who had our truck for 3 days with no response. Luckily, when Nathan called him he picked up.  Nathan explained our situation and he remembered seeing a passport and was able to meet them there and give him the passport!

We made it to the airport in time and had to say goodbye.  This was hard. REALLY hard for me. A handful of people reading this blog will remember when Eric and I didn’t like each other very much. Time and loss has helped us to learn to like and appreciate each other.  We always LOVED each other but now we LIKE each other.  I really enjoy being around him now and it was SO HARD to say goodbye.  He has a precious wife and family too now and that makes it harder.

We had a great week together and I was so thankful that they chose to spend their vacation here. I think they really got a picture of what it is like for us here and I know that he feels much better about me being here after his visit.  It is still hard to say goodbye or “see you later.”   We will see each other again at Christmas and I am really looking forward to that.  I love you Bubba and I will see you in 4 1/2 months!!

And here are just some final random pictures from the week.

We have a very sad puppy also.  He is missing all of the extra loving from Katelyn:(

Reunited…….Part 4

Day 6 and 7 (Thursday and Friday)

Day 6…..This was the day that we all were looking forward to most, I think.  The girls were going surfing and the boys were going deep-sea fishing.  I can speak for the girls in saying that it certainly did not disappoint! The boys on the other hand had a little different experience……

The boys day started at about 6 am.  Nathan was totally expecting and prepared to be sea sick.  (He gets car sick just playing video games with Benson) He had prescription patches, over the counter meds, and special wristbands.  He got up early that morning and put his patch on and was hoping for the best. They left for the marina at about 6:30am.  I think Nathan only made it a few minutes before he stared throwing up.  He said he threw up for 4 hours straight!!! Benson was pretty sick too but never threw up.  He said exactly 4 hours in he felt fine and he had a great time.  (he wishes he had put the patch on the night before) Eric was nice enough to keep putting sunscreen on his face and ears after he had passed out.  Eric and Camdyn felt fine but Cam did take a big nap.

They only caught one fish the whole day but it was delicious!! Eric took a great video of the experience but I can’t post videos on here so I will just share some pictures. (hopefully Eric will post the video on social media)

Us girls had a great time surfing.  The Manuel Antonio Surf School (MASS) picked us up at about 7:30 that morning from our rent house and took us to Dominical to for our surfing lesson.  These guys are awesome! We requested the same guys we had when our family went in June and we were fortunate to get them again.

Katelyn was not excited to go surfing but she quickly changed her mind.  Everyone was able to get up on the surfboards very quickly and SURF! Even little 4 year old, Katelyn! We have a few pictures but we will have more professional pictures soon.

In the end a great time was had by all and the Johns/Bland family vacation started looking up!! Here are a few pictures from the rest of our time at Manuel Antonio.

We found a great little restaurant and we ate there 2 nights in a row.  The first night it was too dark so we missed the sunset but we did get in on a great conga line. (Hard to see in the pictures)





Day 7 (Friday) We visited the National park and beach on our last day. We got to see monkeys, crabs, a deer, a couple of sloths and a rat!! EEK!

And here are some final pictures from our stay in Manuel Antonio.


Reunited and It Feels So Good Part 3:

Days 4 and 5:

On Tuesday, (day 4) we decided to just stay home and enjoy the pool, soccer fields and do some bike riding.  It was pretty uneventful, which was nice after the last couple of days that we had.  We started at the pool and played there for a while.

The kids eventually moved on to bike riding and vegging out.

That afternoon we all took a little field trip to Nathan’s office.  He was having to work the first part of the week and he didn’t have a vehicle so we thought we would pick him up…so yes, at one time there were 11 people in my vehicle.  It was great to see where he works and meet some of his coworkers.  This trip also gave Eric and Rebecca an idea of what traffic is like here….horrible!!IMG_1021That evening the kids finally got to perform their skit that they had been working on.  They were really cute and the boys were really good sports.  Even Benson got into it.

On Wednesday, (day 5) we headed to Manual Antonio National Park.  It is normally about a 2 1/2 drive but when you add in the crocodile bridge and a stop at POPS (our favorite ice cream place here) it takes about 3 1/2.

Just like about every new experience we have had here we really had no idea what to expect when we got to the house we had rented for our time there.  We had to prepare ourselves for anything!  When we pulled in I think we were all a little worried but it ended up being a great place for our family.  I wish I had taken pictures of the place but I didn’t.  You will just have to imagine it.  Nathans little rental car barely made it up and down the hills that it took to get to the house.  Between the howler monkeys and the nocturnal roosters none of us slept the first night. I kept telling Rebecca that they were going to need a vacation from their vacation!